Tragedy averted: California students helped thwart would-be shooters

Teenagers plotting to open fire at a Northern California high school were arrested after fellow students overheard their plan.

Four students were arrested after detectives uncovered a plot to carry out a shooting at their Northern California high school, authorities said.

The plot – which officials described as “very detailed in nature and included names of would be victims, locations, and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out” – was foiled Wednesday after a group of students told a teacher they overheard three of the four talking about opening fire on Summerville High School in Tuolumne, Calif., about 120 miles east of San Francisco, The New York Times reported.

The teacher alerted school administrators, who immediately removed the three from their classrooms and called the police, said Robert Griffith, the superintendent of the Summerville Union High School District.

“Within two to three minutes, those administrators got up out of their seat, recognizing the severity of the information that they received, and were in the classroom pulling those students out,” Mr. Griffith said at a news conference Saturday.

The fourth suspect was identified during the investigation, said Sheriff James W. Mele of Tuolumne County at the news conference. Detectives on Friday arrested all four students on charges of conspiracy to commit an assault with deadly weapons and turned them over to the Tuolumne County Probation Department, The Modesto Bee reported.

The suspects’ names were not released because they are juveniles, though officials said they were all male.

While no weapons were recovered, Sheriff Mele said the students were in the process of obtaining some to carry out the attack. He did not identify a motive.

“They were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible on the campus,” Mele told the Bee. “It is particularly unsettling when our most precious assets – which are our students, their teachers – are targets for violence.”

The students were arrested just days after a mass shooting at a community college in rural Oregon that left 10 people dead, including the gunman.

"It is clear from past history, such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, as well as other recent events in Oregon, that children are willing and capable of planning and carrying out acts of violence against fellow students and teachers on school grounds," said Eric Hovatter, Tuolumne County assistant district attorney, according to KCRA. "While it is easy to say that can never happen in Tuolumne County, the public and local law enforcement must be vigilant, as they were here."

This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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